Tuesday, February 28, 2023



First thing this morning, just as I was waking up, a new jig passed through my thoughts connected with a way to add hidden splines to a mitered lid. It is interesting how the mind works. With the jig being made, I'm ready to test it and see if it does what I dreamed it will do.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Finger joint router bit

In preparation for a class in Portland, Oregon, I decided to test a router bit that cuts 5/32 in. finger joints. Because of the size of the bit, I decided to build a dedicated router table using my large Makita router, one that's rarely used in my shop. You can see the set-up and results in the photo. It has limitations, being useful only for boxes about 2 1/2 in. high or for drawers of similar height height.

An advantage of this method is that all four sides of a box can be clamped together on the sliding portion of the jig to be cut at the same time. Two cuts (and some additional fiddling about) and you've got a box.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Letter/tip in Fine Woodworking

This month's Fine Woodworking arrived this  morning and includes my response to a letter from an interested reader. He had noticed a star knob on the cover of the magazine and wondered about it, directing  letter to me for clarification.

Yesterday in the Clear Spring School wood shop the Rainbow Group made treasure boxes. The exercise fit in well as they've been studying pirates. Decorating the boxes with plastic jewels and markers will come next.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

ash table top

In an effort to clear out a bit of space in my shop, I'm finishing a few things with a hope that they'll sell. The board shown is ash with a fresh coat of penetrating oil finish composed of half and half, tung oil and polyurethane varnish. The beautiful pattern in the wood is from the heartwood of the tree.

This table will be featured in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, and you can make a relatively small investment to have it in your own home.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

When wood comes back to life

There's a magic thing that happens when a clear penetrating oil finish is applied to wood. And that's one of the pleasures that woodworkers receive in their work. 

Yesterday I applied tung oil to two maple table tops and watched the depths of color come forth. The oil also revealed places in the wood that were not quite sanded as smooth as needed, so I used a cabinet scraper to dig a bit deeper into the surface in those spots. After applying an oil finish, sanding is less effective because the oil and sawdust build up in the sand paper. That's not a thing that will affect a cabinet scraper. The closer view shows more of the wood grain and color highlighted by the penetrating oil finish. 

You will also note the darker lines of grain provide an invitation to using walnut or cherry in making the table base. I chose cherry in this case.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, February 13, 2023

a tangle of legs and stretchers

What you see in the photo is a tangle of legs and stretchers for two tables that I'd started months ago. 

Having allowed them to sit for a few months I found that the thick maple tops had warped and needed to be flattened and re-planed. I had to place wedges on the underside at opposite corners on each end of the tops to pass them through the planer to get them flat.  By lifting the corners at opposite ends with the wedges allowed one side to be made flat. Flipping the boards over then allowed them to planed smooth and flat on the side that had been supported by the wedges. The boards were reduced in thickness by 5/8 in. But that's a fine thing as it leaves the tops appearing much lighter, as though they can actually float above the base as I intended. 

The tops are sugar maple and the legs cherry. They will be made available for sale.

This technique of table building is one I'll illustrate in an article in Popular Woodworking and one that I first introduced in my book, Making Elegant Custom Tables.

I call these "torsion tables" as they rely on torsion rods similar to those in a VW bug suspension. The resistance provided by the rods in mortises and the triangulation between legs provides an airy, lightweight and solid frame to support the table top.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Happy valentines day (soon)

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop we made table decorations in advance of Valentines Day. But first thing first. How do you drill a hole straight up and down easily without using a drill press? The simple cylinder of wood on the drill provides both a way of assuring the drill is held vertical, and that it drills only to the desired depth. This simple set-up was to allow me to quickly drill into pieces of wood to serve as bases for our Rainbow Group to make table decorations in advance of the much loved holiday. Photos of the kids follow.

To make the Valentines hearts I made a template of a half heart. The kids were able to draw a whole heart by drawing one side, and flipping it over to draw the other. It was a great way to demonstrate the use of symmetrical geometric design, a thing that will come to greater importance later as our students develop higher math skills. After tracing their hearts, I helped the students cut them out on the bandsaw. Then they sanded the parts as I drilled holes for each to assemble the hearts and stands using 3/16 in. bamboo skewers as sticks.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.


Saturday, February 04, 2023

6 bowls

I managed to get six bowls thrown on the wheel last Sunday and they were dry enough to trim this afternoon. After further drying these will be ready to go into a bisque firing and then be glazed and fired to cone 6. 

Make, fix and create... assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

the Luddite club...

An article in the New York Times introduces us to the Luddite Club. Its motto is "Stop using your phone, start using your brain."

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Wednesday, February 01, 2023

a very rough box

Box making is a narrative venture. In it, we attempt to tell our own stories concerning our own growth as well as describing our own interests and values. This box, as ugly as it may seem to some, tells a few stories that may not be immediately apparent. 

I think the appeal of this project may be three fold. One, the wood was free. Two, it involves an introduction to the use of hand tools. And three, I hope it conveys an understanding to those who want to design boxes, that it's OK to take risks.

It and the step-by-step story of making it will likely become a part of my new book, Designing Boxes.

The finish applied and waiting to be rubbed out is Tung oil. The blotchy finish may even out in time, and as pine does, it will age to a darker honey tone on its own.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise.